Dad-of-five Mohammed Yousaf, 45, and Naweed Ahmed, 36, have been ordered to serve a combined near-10 year term after a woman they sold a ‘false story’ to drive a removals van was stopped at Portsmouth port with four men and two women from Afghanistan and Iraq in the back.
Mum-of-two Wioletta Kossakowska, who a judge said was ‘duped with a false story’ to make the trip to France, was cleared of all charges after denying she was involved in the conspiracy.
She had made the trip to Paris with Yousaf and Ahmed, who travelled back separately on January 5, 2017, in a Volkswagen Passat in a bid to avoid detection.
Border Force officers had stopped her on the trio’s return to Portsmouth in a hired van where the five Afghani and one Iraqi were discovered hiding in furniture loaded into the van driven by Kossakowska.
Prosecutor Timothy Moores revealed her former partner Prezmyslaw Golimowski, 30, was charged with conspiring with the group but was murdered in Bedford in September before he could stand trial.
Mr Moores told a jury there was no evidence the other defendants had been linked to builder Mr Golimowski’s death.
Yousaf was jailed for six years while Ahmed, who has 12 convictions for 21 offences, was handed a 42-month sentence.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard delivery driver Yousaf and accomplice Ahmed had expected Golimowski to drive the hire van but he pulled out, leaving Ms Kossakowska to join Yousaf and Ahmed.
The trio travelled in the van and VW Passat from Dover to Calais in France, over to Paris and then to Caen before taking a ferry to Portsmouth where they were caught.
While abroad in France Yousaf made calls to Switzerland to arrange meeting a shady character known as The Boss who met him and Ahmed to load the illegal immigrants in Paris.
Phone records revealed the timings of their communications and Yousaf had to put his name on a ferry ticket.
Paul Webb, for Yousaf, said the duo’s smuggling trip was ‘akin to a Laurel and Hardy farce rather than a highly sophisticated operation’. They were caught on their first attempted run.
Yousaf had never registered the VW Passat in a bid to stop it being traced back to him.
Addressing Yousaf, judge William Ashworth said: ‘(Ms Kossakowska) was to drive the van on her own from Caen to Portsmouth ferry so in the event, as it transpired, that was stopped that you and Mr Ahmed would not be detected.’
He added: ‘You recruited other people, Mr Golimowski and Ms Kossakowska - Ms Kossakowska was duped with a false story by you. She was not trusted, she was watched.’
‘When you were stopped she was left on her own to carry the can whilst you attempted to escape and persuade her not to reveal your location.’
After being stopped then released Kossakowska drove the hire van until it ran out of fuel, being rescued by the Highways Agency. Both Yousaf and Ahmed later offered her cash if she did not mention them to police.
Judge Ashworth said Yousaf was ‘one link down from The Boss’ and Ahmed was ‘one link down from Mr Yousaf’.
Three or four of the six illegal immigrants are now back in the UK legally, Mr Webb told the court.
Chiara Maddox, for dad-of-one Ahmed, said he was a ‘bit-part player’ and should be spared prison as his ex-partner, the mother of his child, was unwell waiting for a double transplant.
Ahmed, of Atherstone Road, Luton, and Yousaf, of Chandos Road, Luton, denied all charges but were convicted of six charges of conspiring to facilitate the entry of non-EU citizens into the UK. Ms Kossakowska also denied the charges.
Jo Howorth, from the Home Office’s CFI Southern Command West, said: ‘Thorough investigation from my officers established that Yousaf and Ahmed were the driving force behind this smuggling attempt.
‘It also exposed the cover story of an innocent shopping trip for the tissue of lies that it was.’
Dean Oughton, Border Force assistant director at Portsmouth, said: ‘This is an example of the intelligence-led work of my officers proving to be the vital first step ultimately leading to convictions.’